Organizing Employee Records


Now that we’ve started another new year I’d like to reorganize our employee records, but I’m not sure where to start. Can you provide some guidance?


Before you put yet another document into an overstuffed employee file, make a fresh start in 2014 by reevaluating your current employee record-keeping system. Whether you’re going to stick with paper files, create computer-based folders or go high-tech and store your records in the cloud, you need to create at least four separate sets of records for each employee:

  • PERSONNEL FILE: Outlines basic information such as name, address, phone number, emergency contacts, Social Security number and anything else that’s specific to the employee.
  • PAYROLL FILE: Contains salary information, benefits, pay rate changes and other legal documentation that affects the employee’s paycheck.
  • MEDICAL FILE: HIPAA requires employee medical information to be maintained and kept confidentially. Information about health insurance, life insurance, medical leave or other documents containing private medical information goes in this file.
  • I-9 FORM FILE: You must have an I-9 form on file for every employee you hire, and the I-9 files must be kept separately from all other confidential employee files.

Separating and maintaining employees’ files helps ensure that you’re in compliance with federal regulations and that files are secure and will be managed appropriately. A good records-management system can also protect your organization in the event of an audit or litigation.

Here are some tips that might help you get your employee records into good, legal shape:

  1. Document all decisions related to an employee’s hiring, initial training, ongoing training and disciplinary action.
  2. Know how long you must legally keep each document you put in an employee file. Please follow this SHRM link for additional record retention information.
  3. Create a checklist (either electronic or on paper) showing what needs to be recorded and kept, how to document that information, and how long to keep it.
  4. Choose an electronic format that you know you’ll have access to in seven years. That ensures you will be able to retrieve those records when you need them
  5. Develop a secure system for destroying employee records once you do not have to legally retain them. Consider not only paper files or even computer-based records, but the hard drives of computers you take out of service and any copies that employees might have saved to mobile devices or home-office computers.

Best of luck in the new year and with your recordkeeping review.

Recordkeeping is full of “if this, then that” situations. You will often hear us say “it depends” when asking about employee files and recordkeeping. Keep the guesswork out of keeping your files in order and up-to-date. Strategic HR has a handy desktop reference ready to guide you on the documents you can keep together in an employee file and how long you need to keep them. Visit our HR Store to request a copy of our Recordkeeping reference.